The youth-written stories in Represent give inspiration and information to teens in foster care while offering staff insight into those teens’ struggles.

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Foster Care: A Weird Ride
Anonymous
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Life with my birth family was bad, especially from 1st to 3rd grade. I was getting bullied at school and at home. I saw my grandmother die and my grandfather get shot. My family sold drugs and wanted me to sell them too.

In the 7th grade, I stopped going to school. Nobody in my family seemed to care if I stayed home or went. I had no motivation to go to school because I didn’t have friends there. I stayed home and slept or else went to friends’ homes, the basketball court, restaurants—anywhere but school. To escape reality I would buy percocet pills (percs) and weed from a drug dealer on my block named Ty. When I popped a perc I felt like I was dead but could move and open my eyes. In that state, I could pretend I was in a whole other world, living a good life. When I smoked weed, I would feel strong and also hyper. I would be in a better mood and laugh a lot.

An Evil World

One day in the middle of 7th grade, there was a big brawl at my school. Two teens and the principal got injured. School after this became more serious. The people involved in the brawl got sent to another school for 30 days. The Department of Education told the principal he had to get the school under
control or else they would shut it down.

As part of this crackdown, my principal called Child Protective Services (CPS) about my skipping school. A man from CPS came to school to talk to me in my guidance counselor’s office with my principal. The CPS guy was very tall, bald, and muscular. He was dressed sharp in slacks and a short-sleeve polo. He saw I had black eyes and bruises on my arms. He asked me where they came from, and I said, “My mom,” but I didn’t say anything else. I was scared of being taken away.

Then he asked, “Do you beat yourself up?”

“Hell no, I’m not crazy!”

“Are you depressed?”

“Yes, because of how the world is treating me.”

My perspective at that time was that nothing in this world was good; everything was evil. I thought this way because I’d barely seen anything good.

I wouldn’t say more, though, so he called his office, and more people came and asked a lot of the same questions. One guy asked, “Are you safe at home?” and I responded, “No.”

“Is this a personal situation you’re not comfortable telling me?” he asked.

Gambling on a Better Life

I decided in that moment that I was so sick of what was happening to me that I was ready to risk being taken away. I told them that I was being abused at home mentally, physically, and verbally. I told them about one time I got beaten for not defending myself. I told them about how my family would tell me to sell drugs for their gang (Blood), and if I didn’t bring home a certain amount of money they’d whip my ass. There were even worse things I didn’t tell them, or anyone.

I also told them that my family would say, “You need to stop being a b-tch,” to push me to do crimes with them. I told him I didn’t feel safe at home because random people lived there sometimes. I told them I didn’t want a gang life.

I had never told another adult this stuff before, but I was depressed and tired of being abused every day. I wanted to escape and be happy. I knew my answers were going to put me in foster care. I knew foster care would be a roller coaster and that not everything would be good, but I had decided care would be better than staying with my birth family.

We talked for about an hour, with them taking notes. Then the original tall, bald guy drove me away from school in a black van. Students and teachers watched me go with shocked faces.

He said, “It will be better now,” and, “You won’t have to worry about your family now. You don’t have to see them unless you want to.” I didn’t.

He drove me to a big brick building called The Children’s Center. I didn’t care about where I was going to be—in a group home, or with a foster family—I just wanted to be far away from everyone I knew and start my life over.

I feared getting treated badly though. What if the foster mom beat me or abused her power as a foster mom? Where would life take me from here?

image by YC-Art Dept

Robbed and Moved

The Children’s Center was scary. Many of the children were bigger, older, and tougher than me. The first night there, someone stole my cool gray LeBron 11 Elite sneakers. A piece of my heart went with them. They were a gift from my oldest aunt, and they were unique and rare. You could only find them in the Bronx at one Foot Locker for about two weeks. I’d had the shoes for just two months and I’d taken good care of them.

LeBron James was a hero of mine since I was 11. I learned to play basketball by studying his moves, and I identified with him. We were both minorities, and our fathers weren’t in our lives.

The Children’s Center gave me a donated pair of Nikes I had to take because I couldn’t leave without something on my feet. I was grateful, but they’re not shoes I would have chosen.

I stayed in the Children’s Center for about a week; then I was placed in a group home on Staten Island. I didn’t know anyone in my home or neighborhood. CPS would wake me up at 5 a.m. and take me to school in the Bronx in a big van. I usually fell asleep in the van. I was extremely tired because I didn’t get enough sleep. I shared a room with three other boys. When my roommates thought everyone in the room was sleeping, they “beat their meat,” which disgusted me.

I was ashamed about being driven to school in a police van. My teachers and other school staff looked at me strangely and pulled me out of class to ask me if everything was OK. I said, “Sure, I guess.” I didn’t want a lot of people in my business. After a week and three days on Staten Island, I was placed into the home of a tall Caucasian lady in Queens. I was the only foster child there.

Not a Mother, Just There for Me

I heard her lie to her own daughter about money on the phone the first day I was there. I hoped that she wouldn’t screw me over and that I could achieve my goals of making my own money at a part-time job and finishing high school. I didn’t want her to be like a mother, but I wanted her to be there for me. I didn’t miss my biological family.

After a couple weeks, I figured out that my foster mother pretended to be nice whenever she was around people from the agency. She told the agency that she was giving me money when she wasn’t. She told them that she was sending me to school but she let me procrastinate and even stay home sometimes. When I was sick and stayed home, and the agency asked why I didn’t go to school, she would say she sent me but I skipped, so she didn’t get in trouble.

I was there for seven weeks and I only went to school for about 20 of those days. I cut school because I wasn’t motivated. I went to my friends’ houses or I went somewhere alone. Sometimes I would play basketball for the whole day.

The foster mother accused me of being a bad child. She said I smoked in her house and didn’t clean or do any of my chores, which wasn’t true. I would tell my caseworker that she was lying, and my caseworker said I had to listen to the parent. (It didn’t help me that my attendance record showed I was skipping school.) I started seeing foster care as a system where nobody listened to me and everyone believed anything anyone else said about me.

After I’d been in care a month, we had a meeting at my foster agency to discuss what was next for me. My foster mom blamed me for not going to therapy or the dentist, and then my caseworker threatened to send me into a group home.

My caseworker had said to me, “You can always talk to me about what’s best for your future.” But he never picked up his phone and rarely visited the house.

Traveling Alone

Foster care is a weird ride. You don’t know what to expect, and you have no control. I asked to be moved from a house once, and my caseworker said that request had to come from my foster parent. I had to stay there. Caseworkers also tried to make me go back to my biological family, even though it was dangerous for me.

Things are better now, partly because I’ve learned how to better handle the situations that come up in foster care. I also finally got a good foster parent. I’ve been with my current foster mom one year and one week. She is honest and looks out for me.

It sucks that as a foster kid you are usually on your own. You might not have anyone looking out for you, and your bridges to family might be broken. For most of the past three years, I’ve felt like no one had my back. I have had people be there for me, but everything feels temporary and can suddenly change.

I wish I’d gotten love, attention, care, and laughs like a normal child, but I got abuse and foster care. I’m not sure if I’ll ever be the same as kids who weren’t abused. I don’t know if I’ll ever be as trusting or as relaxed as them.

Even though I went into care three years ago, when I was 14, and have been basically safe since then, I still watch the people around me and my own actions. I think hard about my response to things before I act. I am always tensed up for trouble because I was so often in danger as a child.

On the plus side, abuse and foster care forced me to take risks and ask for help from people I didn’t know. I have more experience than other kids and so am wiser to the world. For example when I first went into care, I didn’t know anything about traveling places. Now I go all over New York City by myself.

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(FCYU-2018-04-26)

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